youth vote

Motivote Gives Young People the Tools They Need to Vote

November 5, 2018

Co-founder of motivote, Rachel Konowitz, set out to find a solution to low turnout among voters aged 18 to 29. Through the motivote platform, groups of friends can sign up and form a voting team. Each member of the team then makes a commitment to vote in an upcoming election. Users receive tailored reminders and customized roadmaps to set them up for success, and help make voting accessible, simpler – and fun.

 

Data shows that young people have historically voted at a rate lower than every other age group, and that, in addition, younger voters are more likely than other groups to skip the polls even when they’re registered. More young people between the ages of 18 and 29 voting could influence policy and elected officials on unprecedented levels.

 

So how might we get more young people to the ballot box? Rachel Konowitz, co-founder of motivote, set out to find a solution when she opened an organization focused on youth voter turnout.
 

Motivote is a website that uses social accountability, competition and incentives to combat the barriers to voting that many young people facewhich include uncertainty about the registration process, not knowing when an election is, feeling like the process is too confusing to navigate, feeling their voice doesn’t matter, and other roadblocks.
 

The site, a first-of-its-kind platform that bridges the gap between intending to vote and actually doing it, allows users to register to “pledge, nudge, and vote.”

 

 

 

How it Works
 

Through the motivote platform, groups of friends can sign up and form a voting team. Each member of the team then makes a commitment to vote in an upcoming election. After teams have been formed, voting is “gamified,” according to the website. Users received tailored reminders and customized roadmaps to set them up for success. There are built-in tools to stay on track as a team, and the process is fun, and all about support from the site and other friends who are voting.

The final step is showing your friends, as well as motivote, that you voted by taking a photo sporting your “I voted” sticker or a voting receipt outside of your polling location.
 

What’s the catch? Teams only win when every person on the team votes.

 

Meeting Young Voters Where They Are
 

Rachel says she was inspired to create Motivote in the spring of 2017, as part of the Master of Public Affiars (MPA) program in Social Impact, Innovation and Investment at New York University’s Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. For her capstone project, she had an opportunity to create an innovative solution to a pressing social program. Feeling dismayed by the fact that less than 50 percent of young people had voted in the 2016 election, and that only 20 percent regularly vote in midterm elections, she says she also knew that the lack of civic engagement was likely to continue in the future if it wasn’t disrupted.
 

That’s when Rachel and her co-founders, Emily Graham and Jess Riegel, set out to figure out how they could transform groups of inconsistent voters young voters whom Rachel believes care about their communities and issues but often face barriers to voting into people who show up for every election, every year.
 

“When we started motivote, we knew that there were a lot of other efforts designed to increase youth voter turnout—I had actually worked for an organization that does a lot of nonpartisan Get Out The Vote work on college campuses,” Rachel says. “However, we also knew that the youth voter turnout rate has been more or less the same for the past fifty years.”
 

So the first thing she did was a “thorough landscape analysis of all the other tools and initiatives that were out there,” as well as talk to hundreds of young people to see what they were already doing to hold themselves and their friends accountable to voting, and how she might be able to design tools tailored directly for young people.

 

 

A Growing Impact
 

As a platform, motivote is active in 43 states and Washington D.C. (They do not currently share data on the number of users.) Rachel and her team have high hopes for the midterms on Tuesday, November 6, 2018, after having seen what they call “successful” influence on youth voting rates during primaries in the spring.
 

“We've seen that the people who are on Motivote have really been able to use it to get themselves ready,” Rachel says. “We're hopeful that [we] will have had an impact in not only making sure that people vote but that they feel ready and good about voting.”
 

Rachel says her advice to young people is to use whatever tools you can find to figure out how to vote and what you want to vote for. Rock the Vote, Voter.org and many national and local newspapers have analyses of who and what is on the ballot, to help voters get informed before they go to the polls.


"We're hopeful that [we] will have had an impact in not only making sure that people vote but that they feel ready and good about voting.”

 

Rachel cautions that feeling uninformed should be a spark to find ways to get better informed, not a reason to skip the polls altogether. “The most important thing is to get out there and vote even if you don't feel like you're an expert on the issues or your ballot,” she says. “You know more than you think you do and making your voice heard is important, even if you're not an expert.”
 

She also wants young people to know that while important, “voting is just the first step in being an engaged citizen.” There are a lot of ways that you can make a difference right in your community between elections, including volunteering, going to a march and setting up meetings with elected officials.
 

“Getting your friends to be engaged with you is another way to make a difference. Our power is in our numbers, so by getting your friends involved, you amplify your impact even more,” Rachel says.
 

You can find more information here and sign up for motivote here.

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Elly Belle is SparkAction’s content & engagement strategist and a writer with a passion for youth empowerment, advocacy, culture and media. Elly is most passionate about youth development, reproductive health, mental health, advocacy for the LGBTQIA community, immigration, and advocacy for sexual assault survivors—and she's written about all of it and more for outlets like
Bust and Teen Vogue, where she's a regular contributor. More from Elly here.